READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, December 18th 

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USMCA Nearing House Vote

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are on track to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement this week. The House Ways and Means Committee began the process Tuesday, considering the implementing bill in a markup hearing. During the hearing, Committee Chairman Richard Neal said during his opening statement, which included no mention of agriculture, that the changes “set a new standard for U.S. trade agreements.” Ranking Republican on the Committee, Kevin Brady, stated the agreement “pries open Canada’s market” for several U.S. farm commodities. The committee moved the bill on to the full House for consideration. The House is expected to vote on the implementing bill Thursday. The Senate, however, will not consider the legislation until after any impeachment hearings, likely around late January. The bill repeals the current North American Free Trade Agreement and replaces it with USMCA. President Donald Trump sent the implementing legislation to Congress last week, following an agreement on changes to the deal with House Democrats.

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House Approves Spending Package for Agriculture Through September 30, 2020

The House of Representatives Tuesday advanced a spending package that will extend the biodiesel tax credit and offer additional disaster aid to farmers. The American Soybean Association says the biodiesel tax credit will “expand markets for soybean growers.” The tax credit expansion is part of a tax package amendment included in a funding bill for the Department of Agriculture and others. If passed, the credit would be extended at $1 per-gallon for five years covering 2018-22, retroactive to December 31, 2017, through December 31, 2022. The biodiesel tax incentive lapsed in December 2017. The National Biodiesel Board says the credit will support expansion of biodiesel and renewable diesel production. NBB’s Kurk Kovarik says the deal provides policy certainty that needed to “support investments and continued growth of production.” Lawmakers are also including an additional $1.5 billion in disaster aid in the spending bill, aimed at helping farmers recover from damages in 2019. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation later this week.

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National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Authorization Clears Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday announced committee passage of legislation to support agro-biodefense. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, says the legislation means “we are one step closer to securing a more robust defense of our nation’s agriculture and food supply.” The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Act of 2019 would authorize the Agriculture Secretary to use the facility as a national security laboratory protecting agriculture and food. The bill directs NBAF to carry out the relevant objectives of a Homeland Security Presidential Directive and the National Biodefense Strategy, both aimed at securing the nation’s food and agriculture. The $1.25 billion facility in Manhattan, Kansas, is expected to be operational by 2022-2023. Ranking member of the Committee, Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, says the legislation is “important in the critical effort to help safeguard our food supply from animal diseases and intentional threats.” The bill also outlines the national security mission of the facility and the duties of the agencies responsible for implementing the mission.

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CoBank: Challenges Ahead for 2020

A new report from CoBank suggests more challenges are ahead for Rural America and agriculture. CoBank recently released its report titled The Year Ahead: Forces That Will Shape the U.S. Rural Economy in 2020. The trade environment for 2020 remains hazy, according to CoBank, which says beyond a possible U.S.-China phase one deal, “more progress with China will be a challenge.” Trade is one of the many challenges producers face in the coming year. A phase one agreement could be completed in January. However, without a meaningful full trade deal with China, CoBank says, “the U.S. agricultural economy will continue to struggle with trade uncertainty.” Further uncertainty focuses on potential payments to farmers, which helped prop up farm income in 2019. Meanwhile, the report says the last few years demonstrate the resiliency of U.S. agriculture, and there is room for optimism in 2020. Rising animal protein and dairy exports will be a bright spot for producers, with African Swine Fever outbreaks abroad creating export opportunity for U.S. producers.

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NMPF REAL Seal Redesign Seeks to Clear Consumer Confusion

The National Milk Producers Federation Tuesday unveiled a redesigned website for the REAL® Seal, www.realseal.com. The website seeks to help consumers avoid marketplace confusion regarding real dairy products and imitators. This is the first significant change in the online presence for the REAL Seal since NMPF first assumed management of the seal in 2012. The new website will contain more content to educate consumers about why they should look for the seal on foods they buy, while also continuing to help those companies using the seal to enhance their product marketing. Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, says the website redesign comes as NMPF “continues to battle the misuse of dairy terms by plant-based products.” The new website both educates consumers about how real dairy foods compare to imitators, and explains how the REAL Seal program delineates which brands can use the seal. The REAL Guide component of the website helps shoppers find certified brands and products displaying the seal.

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USDA Funds Conservation Innovation across the Country

The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Tuesday announced $12.5 million in Conservation Innovation Grants. The effort supports development of innovative systems and technologies for private lands conservation. The funding is provided through the Conservation Innovation Grants program, which “funds the future of agriculture and conservation” through grants to organizations and universities that are developing the next generation of tools and technologies to boost conservation on agricultural lands. NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says the projects will “result in new science-based tools for our toolbox.” The 2019 funding pool focused on four priority areas: water quantity, urban agriculture, pollinator habitat and accelerating the pace and scale of conservation adoption. NRCS selected 19 projects for the grant awards. One of the projects, at the University of Minnesota, will evaluate cover crop rotations for vegetable systems, and their impact on pollinators. A complete list of funded projects is available online, at nrcs.usda.gov.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.